The Parliament unanimously approved the revised recommendations of its Committee on National Security for new rules of engagement with the US last week. Despite its right-sounding rhetoric, the list of recommendations, supposed to provide a guideline to the government for renegotiating our relationship with the US, is a cruel joke on the nation. Those who have stamped it with their approval, the entire lot of our MNAs and Senators, would like us to believe that the list of recommendations asserts our independence when it comes to foreign and security policy, although it is clear that it does nothing of the sort. The much talked about and lengthy review exercise has unfortunately concluded with a whimper. Our proud Parliament has basically given cover to a resumption of business as usual with the global badmash, completely disregarding the popular opinion as well as the dangerous repercussions of their spinelessness.
Like the equally unanimous resolutions of earlier sessions of Parliament and of the All Parties Conference convened after the Abbottabad raid, the list of recommendations could become another eyewash. Those resolutions had also made similar demands, including an end to drone strikes and hot pursuits by the US forces into Pakistani territory, but they failed to produce any results. So obviously, begging the US to stop killing innocent Pakistani civilians through drones has not worked. What next? Beg some more? At least that is what Parliament seems to have recommended. Had it been more serious about stopping these criminal and barbaric strikes, it would have not only made its other recommendations subject to their cessation, but also recommended to the government its response in case they continue - like shooting them down.
The same is true for the other apparently positive recommendations on the list. To recommend that hot pursuits and intelligence operatives will not be permitted sounds great, but without a clear strategy to stop these activities that erode our sovereignty, it amounts to little more than sloganeering. The PML-N had initially raised a lot of fuss about the implementation of the recommendations, and had said that it would support the review exercise only if the government spelt out a clear strategy for implementing them. But it failed to live up to its claims and signed on the list of recommendations along with every party in Parliament, without the government satisfying it on that count. Already being criticised for being a friendly opposition, the PML-N, has strengthened that impression about itself due to its role in the review exercise; brushing its valid criticism under the carpet for undeclared political compulsions.
So while Parliament has attempted to play to the gallery of popular opinion, it would not like to rock the sinking boat of the American project in Afghanistan too much. The recommendations tell us that there is no military solution to the Afghan conflict and efforts must be undertaken to promote a genuine national reconciliation in an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned process. Yet, there is nothing in the list of proposals that would steer the Afghan problem in that direction. In fact, the bulk of recommendations reaffirms Pakistan's supporting role in the US-led military solution. How else could one interpret the resumption of Nato supplies to the occupation forces, despite the qualification that no weapons would be transported through Pakistan? Considering that thousands of Nato containers went missing on their way from Karachi to Afghanistan and were not reported lost by Nato, will the servile and inefficient PPP government be able to ascertain what is being transported and what not through Pakistani territory? Besides, ensuring supplies to the US-led forces, even if it is food and booze, amounts to assisting their war against the Afghan people.
The problem with the recommendations for new rules of engagement with the US is that there is nothing new about them other than a few deceptive slogans that attempt to conceal the essentially subservient nature of our engagement with the menacing superpower. There is no attempt to redefine our understanding of the American occupation of Afghanistan and create a strategy for ensuring a speedy withdrawal of foreign troops from the country. Unfortunately, our leadership has resigned itself to its role as a supporting actor in this gory drama. Instead of writing our own script and creating an independent vision for establishing peace in Afghanistan, we continue to tag along with the US game plan. When they attempt to redefine our engagement, our leaders don't question the basic premise of the relationship. They know only to beg for the mercy and kindness of a monster. Has it ever worked?
The list of recommendations is a sorry reflection on the state of our political leadership that is unable, and unwilling, to articulate the interests and aspirations of the people of Pakistan. Those claiming to represent us are obviously more interested in staying on the right side of the superpower, even if it is out to destroy us.
n The writer is a freelance columnist.